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December 27, 2023

The Laughter Remedy: 10 Health Benefits Of Laughter

group of friends laughing in coffee shop

The Laughter Remedy: 10 Health Benefits Of Laughter

Laughter is a normal and natural physiologic response to certain stimuli with widely acknowledged psychological benefits. However, current research is beginning to show that laughter may also have serious positive physiological effects for those who engage in it on a regular basis.

The physical responses of laughter are very fast. After our senses are exposed to something “funny”, an electric current runs through our nervous system to our cerebral cortex. The higher brain functions in the left hemisphere decode the words and the syntactical structure in a very analytic approach to the information, while the more creative right hemisphere understands the humor, or “gets it”.

The 10 Health Benefits of Laughter

1. Laughter Is A Stress Buster

When one smiles, the movement of the facial muscles sends signals to the brain which in turn triggers the release of certain neurotransmitters called endorphins. These chemicals act as natural pain killers, make us feel happy and reduce our stress levels. The more one stimulates the brain to release the chemicals the more one feels calm and composed. Says clinical psychologist at Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, New Delhi, Dr.Sanjana Saraf, “When you are stressed, the body secretes stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol becomes more active when we are anxious or sad or angry as a result of which, the body initiates a sympathetic reaction. On the other hand, happy thoughts initiate a parasympathetic reaction.”

2. Aids in Respiration

Have you experienced a sense of relief after a hearty laugh? This is because laughter involves deep exhalations which lowers the heart rate and blood pressure and you enter a calmer state. Similar to deep breathing, laughter has a cleansing effect that is especially beneficial for patients suffering from emphysema and other respiratory ailments.

3. Improves Social Relations

Frequent mood swings and anger issues only complicate the problem between friends and family members. This usually ends up disrupting the overall balance of the household and often is the reason for break ups and divorce. Gurgaon-based expert clinical psychologist, Dr. Prerna Kohli (PhD) tells us how laughter affects one’s social relations, “It is a well-known fact that laughter reduces stress. A stress free person is an enjoyable companion, who would you rather be with – someone who is stressed and dumping their emotional garbage on you or someone who is fun, entertaining and makes you laugh? Laughter is great for the mind, body and soul, and is akin to jogging for the soul. Laughter brings positive energy and rejuvenates the relationship. Laughter is the biggest stress buster.”

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4. Boosts Your Immune System

Laughter can even go so far as to help you stay healthy. It has been widely studied that laughter can stimulate antibody cells to develop at faster rates by changing the body’s chemistry through hormonal shifts. This increase in antibodies means that the body is able to fight off illness and infection easier. T-Cells are a type of white blood cells known as lymphocytes. Studies have shown that the efficiency of T-cells is actually increased in a subject who regularly laughs and adds those hormonal advantages to their overall system.

5. Regulates Your Blood Pressure

For anyone with high blood pressure, try to laugh more and watch your blood pressure decrease. Studies have shown that “mirthful laughter” causes an initial increase in arterial blood pressure due to the physical act of laughing, but that rise is followed by a decrease to below the normal resting blood pressure. This is further proof that laughter does indeed improve circulation and can reduce blood pressure, which is one of the major causes of heart disease and cardiac issues for many people.

6. Improves Your Memory

Along with the improved brain function that laughter can provide, it can also work to improve memory in a different way. The connections and associations that the brain forms while “learning” can be widened and made more complex by combining basic learning with an emotional response like laughter or humor. Varying the levels of association with different parts of our brain (pleasure, amusement, logic, reason, etc.) remembering facts and recalling details is easier because there are more linkages present in our memory.

7. Enhances Your Mood

Studies have shown that the simple act of laughing or smiling can improve the mood and happiness levels in subjects versus other activities. Laughter has been found to have an analgesic quality that reduces even unconscious pain, causing an improvement in mood. Even forced laughter, without a normally humorous stimulus, works to improve mood. Therefore, even if you don’t have anything funny to laugh about, it will probably put you in a better mood just to participate in the physical act of laughter. Your brain does not actually register whether the stimulus is genuine or not, since people often find unusual things funny, or laughing at inappropriate times. Research suggests that good mood may lead to a greater preference for healthy foods overindulgent foods.

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8. Provides Cancer Therapy

Several studies have shown the direct positive impact of laughter in cancer treatment. A number of cancer survivors have used humour as a complementary therapy since laughter is linked to improving natural killer cell activity, increasing disease resistance and decreasing morbidity in those with cancer or other chronic diseases.

9. Laughter Can Help Relieve Pain

So now you know that endorphins make you feel happy. But did you know they’re also a natural pain reliever? While laughter itself won’t take your pain away, it can help relieve it. Basically, the more endorphins in your body, the greater your threshold for pain.

In a study that looked at the effect of laughter on 70 aged care residents, those that participated in humour therapy reported a decrease in pain compared to those that didn’t. They also reported feeling happier and less lonely, suggesting that a wholesome hit of humour can be an effective non-medical intervention.

10. Lowers Blood Sugar Levels

One study of 19 people with diabetes looked at the effects of laughter on blood sugar levels. After eating, the group attended a tedious lecture. On the next day, the group ate the same meal and then watched a comedy. After the comedy, the group had lower blood sugar levels than they did after the lecture.

Challenge yourself to laugh more

Laugh the next time someone tells a joke. Think about funny moments in your everyday routine. Set a goal to watch a comedian’s stand-up or spend time with your funny friends or family. Laugh. Isn’t it nice? Practice laughing. Once you get laughing, notice if your muscles feel less tense and if you are more relaxed. That’s what we’re talking about. Don’t you feel better? The chances are, you will. That’s the power of laughter.

Humanity has unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution—these can lift at a colossal humbug—push it a little—weaken it a little, century by century, but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand. — Mark Twain

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